by Nana Nwachukwu
They said we shouted for nothing, they said our noise was unwarranted, they said we are late with our comments; they said the married children are already growing into adults, they said the law refers to only citizenship…
Yes, we shouted but not for nothing.
Whenever the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria comes up, we (male and female Nigerians) hope that someday, the National Assembly would be courageous and selfless enough to remember that there is an ache which has become constant and that ache is the excuse that perverted people use every time to turn around and flog the dulling ache into life again.
Let me explain the emotional angle to our feelings on having anyone below 18 years entering into a marriage.
Anyone below 18 years is seen as a child in the society. Most times the age extends to 20 years. Parents feel a need to protect children from harm, corruption of ethics and bad morals. Most times in the Nigerian society, children below 18 years are still under parental care. A child of 13 years, following the standard Nigerian educational system is still in Junior Secondary School or its equivalent. A child of 9 years old is considered as merely exiting the cradle. We have had women complain of suckling babies at 2-3 years old. That gives a 9 year old 6 years post-direct maternal care.
Studies have shown that children have different paces of development and as such, most children of 1-14 years old cannot be said to make concrete life decisions. Marriage is a concrete life decision which should take place between adults. Some adults who have taken such decisions in haste have been known to rescind and regret such.
Medically, the rate of Vesicovaginalfistula (VVF) is prevalent amongst children who have been pregnant. This is because a female child’s pelvis is not fully developed to bear the burden of child-bearing. At least 200,000 female children are currently affected by this ailment. This ailment is degrading as it involves constant urinating and excretion of body fluids from private parts. Usually, the men who put these children in this condition abandon them to their fate.
I will not want it to happen to any female child.
Why did we then shout as the Senate is not the Nigerian Medical Association? I will tell you why.
This is the offending Section of the Constitution;
“29. (1) Any citizen of Nigeria of full age who wishes to renounce his Nigerian citizenship shall make a declaration in the prescribed manner for the renunciation.
(2) The President shall cause the declaration made under subsection (1) of this section to be registered and upon such registration, the person who made the declaration shall cease to be a citizen of Nigeria.
(3) The President may withhold the registration of any declaration made under subsection (1) of this section if-
(a) the declaration is made during any war in which Nigeria is physically involved; or
(b) in his opinion, it is otherwise contrary to public policy.
(4) For the purposes of subsection (1) of this section.
(a) “full age” means the age of eighteen years and above;
(b) any woman who is married shall be deemed to be of full age.”
Note the underlined Section 29(4)(b). The Senate lost the chance to delete that offending Section.
How did they lose the chance you may ask? To delete any clause in the Constitution, a total number of 73 votes supporting it is required. That clause had been voted on and approved for deletion until the Senator representing Zamfara West, Ahmed Sanni Yerima noticed it and raised an objection. To cut a long story short, the Senate president agreed to put it to vote again. This time, the votes went 60-35. There were no 73 votes on either side. As the law requires, the clause remained in the constitution. It did not join the other clauses to be reviewed anymore. Once again, the chance we hoped for got dashed.
While canvassing for the non-removal of the clause, the debate got to ‘how is a married woman deemed as being of full age?’ The Senator decided to make a statement in which he based his opinion on the Islamic religion and sections 37 & 38 of the Constitution which guarantees him his rights to his beliefs. This is wrong as has been clarified by several Islamic faithfuls and Scholars.
Why are we bothered about that clause as you may say it refers only to citizenship? We are bothered because by saying a married woman is deemed of full age, it implies that there are females who are below 18 years getting married legally.
This is wrong.
1. Section 21 of the Child Rights Act Cap C50 LFN, 2004 has this to say;
“No person under the age of 18 years is capable of contracting a valid marriage, and accordingly a marriage so contracted is null and void and of no effect whatsoever.”
Do you see that the law does not include parental consent as an exception to this rule?
2. No person below 18 years has contractual capacity in Nigeria
If these laws have provided for it, why are we then worried? Yes, we are worried because the Constitution, the legis supremo of the land has provided a leeway for pedophilia to thrive. No other law can compete with the Constitution. See for yourself;
“1. (1) This Constitution is supreme and its provisions shall have binding force on the authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
(3) If any other law is inconsistent with the provisions of this Constitution, this Constitution shall prevail, and that other law shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void.”
We need the constitution to define expressly who a child is. We do not need perverts hiding under Sections 37 and 38 of our constitution to ruin our future, our dreams and our children. The Constitution is being amended but the required amendment is yet to be fulfilled.
Marital rape is not a crime in Nigeria. Men hide under these laws, marry children, rape them and ruin their dreams. NAPTIP gave up on Yerima in 2010 because they could not identify a law that could shoot down his perverted desires. This was the amendment we hoped for that would finally give way. We waited patiently for 3 years and the time came and is about to pass. Think of the dashed hopes and dreams of these children who are led into marriage.
I listened to a young girl talking about her friend who got married at a tender age and how she was constantly maltreated by the husband. It is sad. While living in Kano, I spoke to a 10 year old married child. She sold KuliKuli oil to me with a very old haggard man trailing behind her. This man should be about 60-70 years old. She was his wife. They were having sex. It was the beginning of horror for me. We cannot let this chance slip away.
The senate must vote again, this time with their conscience and not their religion or their loins. The Supreme law protects the perverts, what about our children?
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